Jesus the “Son of Mary”, NOT “the Son of God”

By Abdul Samad Ali

The term “Son of God” or “God’s son” occurs in the synoptic gospels 27 times and the term “the son” occurs 9 times. It is not sufficient, however, to consider the texts in which the title actually occurs. Passages throwing light upon Jesus’ conception of the divine fatherhood in general and man’s sons must also be examined. Whenever a reputed saying of Jesus is drawn into discussion, it must be tested in a retranslation into the Aramaic dialect spoken by Jesus; and the same applies to utterances concerning him by persons to whom this Galilean speech was the vernacular. It is necessary to bear in mind the fundamental distinction between the the Greek words ascribed to Jesus which we posess, and the Aramaic sentences he spoke which we can only surmise.

The synoptic tradition records no utterance of Jesus in which he distinctly refers to himself as a”son of God.” In Mathew 27:43, it is indeed said that mocking high priests, scribes and elders quoted him as saying: “I am a son of God.’ but the only ground for such an assertion would be Jesus’ answer to the high priests question in Mathew 26-67. The taunt seems to have been made up of phrases from Wisdom 2:16-18 of more importance would be the distinction between ‘my father’ and ‘your father’, only if this could be traced back to Jesus himself.

At the time when these accounts were elaborated ‘Son of Man’, ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of God’ had become synonymous and ‘Son of God’ was understood as ‘God,’ so that the blasphemy of making oneself equal with God could be conceived of as a charge brought against Jesus, which was the intention of the High priests. The ‘Son of God’ in Matthew 27:40 is lacking in the parallel passage Mark 15: 29 and the utterance is based on Matthew 26:61 or Mark 14:58, having no more historic value than these improbable testimonies.

On the other hand, “Son of Man” – In the New Testament – is a designation applied to Jesus. It is found only in the Gospels and always on His own lips, where He is referring to himself as “the Son of Man”. I wonder as to why he never referred to himself as the “son of god” instead of “son of man”

The term “Son of man” occurs aprox 109 times in the Bible, and carries with it no implication of divinity. Rather the phrase is translated in the Hebrew as “Ben Adam” or in the Aramaic as “Bar Enash”. In the Semitic languages the individual is often designated as a son of species to which he belongs, the species being indicated by a collective or plural noun. The fact that Jesus refers to himself as “Ben Adam” to mean Son of Adam as opposed to “Ben Elohim” to mean Son of God, is a border line between monotheism and polytheism. But even then, the term “bnē elōhim” in Genesis 6-24 were understood in some circles to be angels, according to the exegetes as early as 2nd Century BC.

A critical study of the synoptic material leads inevitably to the conclusion that Jesus never called himself ‘the Son of God’, and never was he addressed by that title. A careful examination of the gospels tends to produce the conviction that Jesus never assumed the title ‘Son of God’ either to designate himself as the expected king of Israel or to intimate that his nature was unlike that of other men, but that he spoke of men in general as ‘the sons of God’, figuratively meaning ‘The creation of God’ and of God as their ‘Father’, figuratively meaning ‘Their Creator’.

“Then she (Mary) brought him (Jesus) to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented. O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.” So she (Mary) pointed to him (Jesus). They said, “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?”

[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me Salah (prayer), and Zakah (almsgiving), as long as I live.And (made me) dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. And peace be upon me, the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.”

{Qur’an, Sura Maryam (Mary) 19, Verse 27-33}

References:
Son of Man and Son of God in modern Theology
Encyclopedia Biblica – Cheyne and Black from page 4690 to 4740
The Oxford Dictionary of The Christian Church – 3rd Edition

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